Coping with the PGCE / Cert Ed (Greenwich University)

This article will provide a few hints and tips for all those working towards the PGCE / Cert Ed qualification. It highlights useful ideas for both year 1 and year 2 and, if you are also working full time looks at ways you can manage your time without reaching overload!
It may also be useful as an overview of what is covered for all those considering the prospect of enrolling on the course.


Year 1 of the PGCE / Cert Ed is very practical, with a strong focus on classroom practice, lesson and programme planning, teaching methods and classroom management. You should find that it is very easy to apply your learning to your teaching style. You will be required to complete a case study on one of your learners, complete three teaching observations, two of which must be a pass and to include a selection of lesson plans showing personal progression of knowledge and skills. Towards the end of the course you will also look at building a scheme of work, and justifying your choice of subjects, and ordering.

All in all this first year is quite enjoyable, as it is very hands on. The work required for the course is directly linked to your full time job (as long as your full time job is in teaching!) and so finding time is not so hard. You can use your session plans that you create for work – for your portfolio – although you will need to use the Greenwich University template – so artful cut and paste skills would be useful.
The case study is also directly linked to your learners, and so again, links nicely with work. However, as you complete year 1, photocopy your portfolio as it will be invaluable in year 2, and unless your lucky – you may not get your PPP1 back in time to be of use in year 2.

Year 2 of the PGCE / Cert Ed is an entirely different matter, it is very much a theory based approach to teaching, where you will study educational theories, learning styles and behaviours and look at political influences on teaching. It is difficult to see how this impacts your teaching practice at all, as the only direct link is work on assessment, induction and building of learning plans for learners, which is only a very small part of the 2nd year. You will find that in the 2nd year you will spend much more time with textbooks, and searching the internet for articles. The 2nd year also spends time looking at your personal development and progress, and it is here where your PPP1 first becomes useful.

Using your PPP1 to look back over your teaching and learning practices and how you have developed will be useful in identifying what skills you remain weak in. It therefore becomes much easier to write your ILP and identify key targets in the 2nd year. It is also good to spend some time with your tutor to ensure these targets are kept SMART.

The 2nd year also requires a Portfolio of Professional Practice, which again requires 3 observations, two must be a PASS, and again you will need a selection of lesson plans – showing progression.

This is in fact harder than it sounds, as by now your lesson planning should be getting pretty good, so to gain extra marks, and show that progression – follow almost to the letter your tutor’s notes on planning in your observation, no matter how small or insignificant e.g. Using numbers instead of bullet points, or changing your font size- believe it or not it is still classed as progression!

Your PPP1 will also help you to organise your PPP2, the 2nd portfolio requires much more, including two learners progression – from Assessment to present (VERY IMPORTANT to erase ALL personal details from your learners records that you include in PPP2) By using your first portfolio – it will act as an aide memoir on how Greenwich like things and will ensure continuity in your work.

The hardest part of the 2nd year, if you’re working full time, is finding the time. Whereas year 1 slots nicely into your work, year 2 doesn’t and speaking personally these tips ensured I got through it without suffering meltdown!

1) Free up your evenings! Anything you do on weekday nights needs to be abandoned, at least for a few hours even if that means sweet talking friends, family or partners to take the kids out for a few hours. Use this time to do your reading, as 2/3 of the course needs you to read.

2) Get an idea of what you want to study early on – the sooner you decide, the more time you’ll have to research it and complete all that reading.

3) Coloured sticky strips will save you time – so invest BIG in these and use them to highlight anything that you may need to come back to, if possible colour code against who said what as in essays you will need to quote author’s name, book and page, so if you have lots from a certain author – use a specific colour, sounds silly but it will help in the long term.

4) Get a buddy! Having someone, or possibly a small group of people to meet with -or call will provide new ideas when you get struck with writer’s block (a common occurence!) or even just a bit of support. At times, especially if you’re working, this course can cause stress – having someone in the same boat really helps.

5) Have a laugh – although it is important that you dedicate time to the course, it is equally important to have “away time”, it may only be 1 or 2 nights a week but on those nights make the absolute most of it, see friends, family – go out anything you want. That way the course won’t feel like its overtaking your life, and you’ll return to it much more refreshed and re-energised!

Finally, remember WHY you’re doing this, professional development, a pay rise, improved job prospects, and improved teaching and support for your learners, these are all great things, and it really IS worth it.

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